Australian Export Legislation Amendments Smooth the Way for Cannabis Export

General 3 min
June 26, 2020

The Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Bill 2020 (Cth), which passed both Houses of Parliament on 17 Jun 2020 removes a significant regulatory hurdle limiting the capacity of Australian medicinal cannabis and hemp growers to export their products overseas.

Exporters of cannabis products will be able to request government export certification where needed, removing a significant regulatory barrier limiting the ability of Australian cannabis and hemp producers to export their products.

Under the export control regime established by the Export Control Act 1986 (Cth) (soon to be replaced by a comparable regime under the Export Control Act 2020 (Cth)) exporters of certain prescribed goods must obtain certification from the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture prior to export.

In addition, many countries require imports of plant and animal material to be certified by the government of the exporting country in the form of a phytosanitary certificate.  These certificates indicate the products have been inspected and tested by the government of the exporting country to ensure they are free from pests and diseases and conform to the phytosanitary regulations of the importing country.  In Australia, phytosanitary certificates are issued by the Federal Government Department of Agriculture under the Export Control Act and the Export Control Orders.

The Export Control Act only applies to “goods”.  This currently includes animals, plants, food or animal or plant derived products, but specifically excludes narcotic goods within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901, including any genus of Cannabis.

As a result, prior to this amendment, the Export Control Act did not apply to cannabis or cannabis products.  Although this means export certification under is not required by the Australian Government in order to export cannabis products, it poses a challenge for exporters who are required to provide government certification by the importing country.

Generally this type of certificate may be requested and issued under section 23 of the Export Control Act, however, this is only possible in relation to “goods” within the meaning of the Act.  As a result, it is not currently possible to request export certification in relation to cannabis products.

Export Control Legislation Amendment (Certification of Narcotic Exports) Bill 2020 (Cth) will amend the definition of “goods” in the Export Control Act to ensure that narcotic goods are also covered by the export control system.  As a result, cannabis growers will be able to request government export certification where needed, facilitating easier export of Australian cannabis and hemp products.



Written by
Jane Owen
Jane Owen
I’m a partner and head of our Intellectual Property Group in Sydney where I use my deep-level experience of complex IP strategy and disputes to advise clients from a range of IP-rich industries. This advice traverses complex patent litigation through to research and commercialisation structures. My specific focus is in the life sciences and higher education fields, in which I have over two decades of experience in all aspects of IP, including portfolio establishment, IP strategy, commercialisation and enforcement.
Patrick Brown
Patrick Brown
I am an Associate in the Intellectual Property Group in Sydney, with a particular focus on the life sciences, pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. I work in the Intellectual Property Group assisting clients with a wide range of contentious and non-contentious IP matters, including patents, trade marks, plant breeder's rights and breach of confidence. I also work with clients in the life sciences, food, pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare sectors on a range of other matters including regulatory compliance, licensing and distribution agreements.

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